Why Mental Health Issues Disproportionately Affect the LGBTQIA+ Community

Introduction

4.5% of adults in the US identify as LGBTQIA+ as of 2017. 39% of those people suffer from mental health issues – that is 5.8 million people. It is really important to know that identifying as LGBTQIA+ is NOT a mental illness or disorder. Everyone has a sexual orientation and gender identity. People who identify differently than the majority of the population fall under the term LGBTQIA+. Although being LGBTQIA+ is absolutely not a mental illness, more LGBTQIA+ people experience mental health problems than their “straight” counterparts. This is mostly due to the shame, fear, discimination, and traumatic events they have to face due to how they identify. Discrimination against LGBTQ+ persons has been associated with high rates of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and suicide. Many people who identify as LGBTQIA+ are also part of other marginalized communities. This adds the potential for xenophobia, racism, ableism, ageism, sexism, and much more to homophobia or transphobia they already have to face. 

The Effect of Homophobia 

Homophobia can come in many forms including; rejection by friends and family, discriminatory acts and violence, and laws and policies with negative consequences. This obviously causes a severe and constant mental strain on people who identify as LGBTQIA+. Every day we see new stories about how a queer person was physically harrassed for their sexuality. This makes it impossible for anyone who identifies as LGBTQIA+ to not live in constant fear. This causes mental health disorders including; anxiety, depression, and panic disorder.

As a queer woman I am no stranger to homophobia. I have been called every slur you can think of and have been threatened numerous times, but I still consider myself lucky. I grew up with a lot of internalized homophobia that has stuck with me to this day. I also suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, depression, and bipolar disorder. Luckily, I have a very supportive family that accepts me as I am. I know many people who are not so fortunate. For example, my girlfriend’s parents are extremely religious and if they found out she was gay she would be sent back to Iraq to go through converstion therapy. Personal, family, and social acceptance of sexual orientation and gender identity affects the mental health and personal safety of LGBTQIA+ individuals. She is under constant and immense stress about what her family would do if they found out. 

The Effects of Transphobia

2020 has been the most fatal year ever recorded for the transgender and gender non-conforming community. At least 32 members of this community have been violently murdered so far this year. Trans women of color are the most at risk population in the country. Obviously, fearing for one’s life every minute of everyday could cause serious mental disorders and illnesses like depression, anxiety, and panic disorder. 

Trans people who have not yet come out or transitioned may also experience gender dysphoria People with gender dysphoria often experience significant distress associated with the conflict between the gender they are and the gender they were assigned at birth. People who suffer from gender dysphoria often also suffer from severe depression that often results in suicide. 

Important and Shocking Facts

  • A majority of LGBTQIA+ people say that they have been threatened, been sexually harassed, or experienced violence because of their sexuality or gender identity. 
  • Fifty-nine percent of LGBTQIA+ people feel that they have fewer employment opportunities.
  • Fifty percent believe they are being paid less than non-LGBTQIA+ people. 
  • Thirty-eight percent of transgender people say they have experienced slurs.
  • Twenty-two percent of transgender individuals say they have avoided health care out of fear they would be discriminated against.
  • LGBTQIA+ teens are six times more likely to experience symptoms of depression than non-LGBTQIA+ identifying teens.
  • LGBTQIA+ youth are more than twice as likely to feel suicidal and over four times as likely to attempt suicide compared to their heterosexual countparts. 
  • Forty-eight percent of transgender adults report that they have considered suicide in the last year, compared to 4 percent of the overall US population.

Resources for the LGBTQIA+ Community

National Queer & Trans Therapists of Color Network

Trans Lifeline

IT GETS BETTER PROJECT


SOURCES:

Arayasirikul, Sean, et al. Examining the Effects of Transphobic Discrimination and Race on HIV Risk Among Transwomen in San Francisco. Sept. 2017, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5563490/. 

LGBTQ+ Communities and Mental Health. http://www.mhanational.org/issues/lgbtq-communities-and-mental-health. 

“LGBTQ+ Mental Health: Insights from MHA Screening.” Mental Health America, http://www.mhanational.org/research-reports/lgbtq-mental-health-insights-mha-screening. 

Marsh, Dr. Amy. “The Fatal Effects of Transphobia.” GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog, 8 Dec. 2013, http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/transphobia-fatal-effects-1122114/. 

Stigma and Discrimination Affects Gay and Bisexual Men’s Health. 29 Feb. 2016, http://www.cdc.gov/msmhealth/stigma-and-discrimination.htm. 

“Violence Against the Transgender Community in 2020.” HRC, http://www.hrc.org/resources/violence-against-the-trans-and-gender-non-conforming-community-in-2020.


WRITTEN BY: Eliza Cline

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